Seat belt research aims to increase child safety on the road

MANHATTAN — Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury among children. Kansas State University civil engineers are striving to increase child safety by studying a simple action: buckling up.

The engineers — Sunanda Dissanayake, associate professor of civil engineering, and Niranga Amarasingha, a postdoctoral researcher in civil engineering — have found the most effective strategy to prevent injury and death among children is to use age- and size-appropriate seat belt restraints.

The researchers studied state databases that contain information about vehicle crashes from 2004 to 2008. During that time, children ages 4 to 13 were involved in 50,155 crashes in Kansas.

When analyzing data, the engineers found several factors made it less likely for a child to buckle up. Children were less likely to use seat belts if the driver was intoxicated, if the driver was not buckled up and if the child was riding in an older vehicle. The type of car also affected seat belt usage. Children in pick-up trucks had the lowest seat belt usage rate, children in cars had better seat belt usage rates, and children in SUVs and vans used seat belts the most.

The most frequent factors that contributed to Kansas crashes involving children were inattentive driving, failure to yield right of way, driving too fast, wet roads and animals in the road.

The researchers are preparing their work for publication. They are also performing another study about young drivers.

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